Fellow author (An Incident on MSR Tampa, Musa Publishing, March 2012), and Iraq war veteran SS Hampton Sr., is my guest today on my blog, “Unfiltered Speech in a Politically Correct World.”
Stan arrives at the blog with an insight on homelessness most of us can barely imagine in a safe, insulated world, and yet, many are a mere paycheck away from the streets. Please join me in welcoming Stan, and be sure to check out his book at the links provided at the end of this article.
-Karen Kennedy Samoranos
Homelessness—It Isn’t For Anyone
by SS Hampton Sr.
Homelessness—it isn’t for man, woman, or child.
And yet, it exists. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, there are various estimates of how many homeless there are in America. Referring to USA Today, there are “an estimated 1.6 million people unduplicated persons (in) transitional housing or emergency shelters”; referring to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, there are “approximately 3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them children, are likely to experience homelessness in a given year” (http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/How_Many.html).
The National Coalition for the Homeless also estimates that among the homeless, 6% of the homeless are aged 55 to 64 years; that in a survey accomplished by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 4% are Native Americans; and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimated in 1994 “that on any given night, 271,000 veterans are homeless (http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/who.html).
Now that we have older and newer statistics out of the way, allow me to introduce myself.
SS Hampton, Sr., a 59-year old unemployed Native American, and grandfather to 13 grandchildren, here. I retired in July 2013 from the Army National Guard, but cannot collect my retirement until my 60th birthday next year. I am also an Iraq War veteran, a writer, photographer, photojournalist, and college student (two semesters away from attaining an Associates in Photography, though my heart is in anthropology/archaeology). My military experience, active Army, Reserve, and National Guard, includes training in Photography, Electronic Warfare Signal Intelligence Analyst, and Human Resources; courtesy of the Federal Civil Service, I received photojournalism training.
I have never been in jail, prison, actually lived on the streets, nor do I suffer from alcoholism, drug abuse, or gambling addiction.
And, I am also enrolled in a 2-year Veterans Administration homeless veterans transitional housing program administered by a national non-profit agency.
Since February 2012 my “home” is a tiny efficiency in one of two buildings designed to resemble military barracks. I am here because I was not able to find a job and ran out money. Try finding a job at my age in Las Vegas, Nevada; even when applying for janitorial or cook jobs I never received an interview, let alone applying for administrative jobs.
This complex I live in is located in one of the major “homeless corridors” here in Las Vegas. Except for when the police clear the area, the homeless lounge against wrought iron fences with their bags and shopping carts near a homeless shelter. They hang around the battered women shelter at the corner, or at a nearby “cafeteria” run by another non-profit for the homeless. By now I recognize a few people. There’s the Asian woman in her 50s who has staked out a place by a rock quarry business that sells granite slabs and gravel for homeowners; she has been at that spot for close to six months now. A couple of weeks ago when I was walking up to the smoke shop I was startled to see her with a bright white parasol over her shoulder to protect her from the summer sun. She has a new neighbor, a skinny black woman perhaps in her 40s who often sits with her back against a street light pole. Near the battered women shelter was a skinny black woman in her 50s; when not sleeping on the sidewalk or shouting and cursing at passing vehicles, she sat there feeding the pigeons. She has been around here almost since I arrived in the area—one or two months ago, she disappeared.
Some days are downright depressing. If not for monthly drills when I was in uniform, or when attending college classes… Yes, things could be much worse, but they could also be better.
These days, other than attending college and writing and planning a few photography projects, I am simply trying to hang on until my military retirement begins. I will probably lose the SUV I helped my son and his family purchase back in 2009—the damned thing has been a black hole of repairs, it should never have been on the market…
Sometimes when I walk up to the smoke shop, past the Asian woman with her white parasol, I wonder if those driving past even notice us. When I used to travel this way in a vehicle or on a bus, I saw the people on the streets, but I didn’t really see them.
So, what causes homelessness? Many reasons, I’m sure. It depends on who you ask.
So, how do we end homelessness? Many courses of action, I’m sure. It depends on who you ask.
I know two things.
No one deserves to be homeless.
And those who do not suffer so, do not really see those of us who are. We are as transparent to the world as a pane of glass—you see us, but you look through us as if we are not there.
SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, a published photographer and photojournalist, and a member of the Military Writers Society of America. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. Second-career goals include becoming a painter and studying for a degree in photography and anthropology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology. After 12 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters. As of December 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hampton officially became a homeless Iraq War veteran.
Amazon.com Author Page
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Goodreads Author Page
“An Incident on MSR Tampa.” MUSA Publishing, March 2012.
Halloween Night, 2006 – a resupply convoy commanded by the Air Force and escorted by Army gun trucks, is leaving Kuwait for Baghdad. The lonely desert highway north is MSR Tampa, a bloody highway along which for years the convoys suffered insurgent attacks. And on MSR Tampa there is a particular wooded bend that no one speak of, though many know of its haunted reputation, a reputation given new life by a gun truck crew testing a new generation of enhanced night vision goggles…
Sergeant Travis Harland peered through the helmet-mounted, experimental Enhanced Next Generation/Night Vision Goggles, called Cyclops, at the bright, fuzzy, greenish-white glow of the Iraqi desert. Isolated homes and small villages swam out of the darkness before disappearing into greenish-black static that reminded him of a haunted landscape. From time to time he was rudely jolted when the Cyclops bumped against the side ballistic window of his growling HMMWV gun truck that led the supply convoy up Main Supply Route Tampa, bound for Baghdad.
A bright shaft of greenish-white light swept across the dunes and clumps of brush to their right before locking onto a small dusty mound further ahead. A metallic voice sounded in the earphones shoved under Harland’s already tight fitting Kevlar helmet.
“-at the one o’clock, a hundred yards ahead,” the Gunner, Specialist Paul Bonner, said.
Harland sighed. A gun truck wasn’t built for comfort, especially when the Gun Truck Commander was tall and thin, as he was. Being thin didn’t provide much of a cushion for sitting, especially on army seats. And communications glitches didn’t help his mood either.
“Bonner! You hit the off-switch again, you fucking idiot. Say again.”
“Pile of sand and rocks at the two o’clock, fifty yards ahead. Throwing a glo-stick,” Bonner said. A bright fluorescent stick tumbled through the dusty, windy night to land next to the pile that was already so well marked by glo-sticks from previous convoys. Glo-sticks warned of a sometimes suspicious feature for following vehicles.
The Driver, Private First Class Lee Stewart, veered into the left lane, away from the pile…